Play to Make

Fall 2021


CT+E ~ Final Reflection

I cannot help but feel that this year is in complete contrast to how this class would be in other years. However, I also feel that we did many things for the amount of time and the resources that we had. I mean we completed basically 3½ projects along with an introduction. Although thinking back on it, I did feel a lot of pressure throughout the course, and whether that was a reflection of the course or the entirety of this semester remains to be seen. The actual class itself was quite fun and enjoyable, and the small group was really helpful for actually connecting to the subject matter. We were an absolute unit learning design together. Professor Sullivan was a great professor and knows exactly how to teach her students about the field she’s in. It helps that she’s objective because then her feedback is very reliable.

Moving back to the class, I also have this strange feeling that this class was less “technological” than it normally is, which is simply based on the fact that the syllabus not entirely lining up with the class, at least from what I remember. However, I wouldn’t say I minded that—doing something with my hands was nice for a change. Although, the best project hands down was the final one. Nothing made me feel as good as that animation—it was a release of creative energy. This leads to a concluding remark that I feel about this class, which is the fact that it releases tension. It gives you something to do and not to stare at. It has this productive workflow that makes you feel good as if it was designed to be that way.

Design was designed to be experienced through design.

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Design Elements and Principles

This will be the second to last post before the CT+E journey finishes, and I’m going to spend it going over the basics, which I think is a nice conclusion.


The most basic element is a point. They have zero-dimensional structures and describe position and vertices very well. They are the origin for the other elements to prosper. The step-up is a line which is when a point traces out a straight path. They play an important role in displacement and the construction of shapes. A shape is a two-dimensional construct of line(s) and they can be used as the basis for space in a design. A form is the composition of shapes, which can be three-dimensional, and they describe the geometry of our world in a design-based system. Color gives rise to a new way of differentiation and adding aesthetic value. Value describes shading and depth in a design based system. Space is the lack of element, which is an element in and of itself, it describes openness. Finally, texture gives rise to ways objects can contrast each other in a design-based system.


The principles of design group the elements together to form a representational system. Harmony is the unity of the elements to form a cohesive whole. Many things can be harmonious: repetition, patterns, similarity, relationship all have some way to bring balance to a system. Symmetry describes the tension between two elements and whether they belong together or apart. Scale gives weight to the objects and gives rise to most significant parts of a design.


The elements and principles are hidden in our everyday lives, but are some of the most subtle ways to expand human knowledge.


Design in Engineering

In the book “Principles of Engineering Design” by Vladimir Hubka, the following picture is visible:


It describes a process as a function of multiple inputs, outputs, and confounding variables. He calls it a technical process, and in the photo above it’s a little abstract, which he points out. However, this system can represent basically any process. A more concrete example he gives is the following:


However, notice that this is just a design in its most simple form. The design of a process and how a process is designed. It’s a one to one relationship. These are designs that describe fundamental engineering processes. In other words, design holds significance in engineering for being able to describe and design a process with all of its respective connections.


Design Philosophy

Before in this blog, I’ve described design as a way to convey things, whether those things be information or otherwise. While that is generally true, design frequently functions the best went it isn’t so apparent. When you walk into a room and don’t think about what it looks like, because it already makes sense, that’s good design. It functions discretely and independently from the conscious mind. It’s designed so well, the information it conveys need not be thought about. With that notion, it kind of makes sense why discrete design is the best designit conveys information in the most efficient way, with no need for conscious thought. It is also a true notion that our environment affects who we are and how we act. Certain designs make us uncomfortable, happy, sad, angry… So it’s important for the design to ultimately be good and have a purpose. Design with a purpose gives people a purpose, and with good design, people would never notice.


The Importance of Motive in Design

In design, art, or any creative medium, it can become very easy to lose the purpose of your project when you focus hard on aesthetics or type of style. Something can look nice, but if it isn’t cohesive, then it can feel somewhat empty. Art is very much about strategy and planning. People say that they just go in and feel the music, or feel the animation, and that can be true, but it can lead to largely inconsistent results for beginners. So, I assert that in art, a plan is a necessary way to keep your project cohesive. I would like to cite Don Hertzfeldt’s EVERYTHING WILL BE OKAY as an example of something that goes absolutely insane, but always comes back full circle to its original purpose.

In the short film, we follow a stick figure named Bill who explores his world as he falls into the depths of some fatal neurological disorder that is causing his mental functionality to fluctuate. It starts off relatively normal, with this strange but cute back and forth between Bill and the World. The things that he thinks are a little strange, but it’s fine… at first. Slowly, his thoughts become more disoriented and everything becomes much stranger. However, it’s still the same Bill. Things then take a turn for the worse around the climax, which can be view below:

(DISCLAIMER: Graphic Content and Kinda Scary)

As you can see, everything came crashing down and every single effect you could think of comes through. You think, what’s going to happen to Bill? Is he going to be okay? Bill will be okay. In fact that’s what the title entail: Bill may be dying, but he always comes back around to the same person. Bill is always going to be okay, nothing more, nothing less, his entire life is just okay, even on the brink of death.

It may not be that obvious, but the themes of nihilism and come back around and actually ties up those themes together into a conclusive ending. No focus is ever lost: it is a cohesive whole from start to finish.


What motivates me?

Motivation is very inconsistent for me. Sometimes it’s substantial, and sometimes it’s bountyless. What consistently motivates me is my passions for the things I lovemath, neuroscience, music. However, they’re also like a double-edged sword. Sometimes I can become too obsessed with my passions, in which case I lose motivation for the other things I could normally do. This is when I’m most stressed—there’s this awful dissonance between being able to learn all these things about my passions but struggle to get by in other things. There is a counterattack to this, albeit, not the best one: the other thing that motivates me is loss. I don’t want to lose and I especially don’t want to fail, so I fight back against my passions in order to keep myself in check. I also especially don’t want to lose the people I care about, because I don’t know where I’d be without them. This is all very depressing sounding, but there is a flip side to thismy motivation to keep on going. I want to see where life takes me, or more specifically, I want to see where I take myself. Also, feeling sad kind of sucks.


Photography ~ For People who Don’t Take Many Photos but Would Like to Do Something Nice Whenever They’re in an Aesthetically Pleasing Environment

Instead of going into the metaphysics of design or the actual physics of light, I’m going to dial it back and talk about something nice and simple: photography tips and tricks.



People always know this one but always tend to neglect and forget it—the rule of thirds. All you must imagine two sets of parallel lines that are perpendicular to each other. This will create a 3×3 grid. Now, all the rule of thirds says is that the best photos happen when your photo is divided up by those lines “nicely.” Usually, when doing this trick it’s best to have the center of focus be in the middle square, but some offset can give a pleasing result as well.

Example of the rule of thirds
Example of the rule of thirds

Panning your camera when taking a photo can create motion. This one is pretty self-explanatory, so here are few examples:


Shutter speed can give many different effects, but particularly with light. It’s great for exposure type shots like these:


However, usually, people associate the exposure shots with a night-time setting like above, however, they can also be used in daylight. But if the subject of the exposure isn’t light, then what is it? Well, here are some examples:


Motion is the subject of our exposures in this case. Anything with movement becomes this whispy blur of all its positions in time. Truly, it is quite spectacular.


Optical Illusions ~ Recreational Design at its Best

Okay, technically, optical illusions are more psychology and recreational mathematics, but if there’s something to convey, design will always be a way.

Surprisingly, trying to find concrete optical illusion-based designs with a source was a challenge. Most of the time, I just ended up finding discrete sculptures like that in Tabary Francis’ works:

However, after some scouring, I have found a couple of others seemingly in random locations.


Okay, great, I can show you these sculptures for hours, but what’s the point. I mean really: what’s the point of optical illusions. Well, here comes the lesson of this post—design takes from all fields and subdisciplines. Design serves to convey, to give purpose, and most important, intuition for the world around us. While these structures do look purely for fun, and some definitely are, their purpose is to challenge your perceptions of the world. Challenge your top-down thinking and make sure you think twice before updating what you believe true. That’s the purpose of optical illusions in design, but they’re useful too, like serving as a monitoring and rehabilitation tool in psychiatry. In mathematics, it’s a recreational tool! They always say that different things have different meanings for different people. These topics are no different—especially optical illusions.


Draw Better ~ Fact or Fiction


I used to love to draw when I was a kid. I tried drawing video game characters that I loved delay, but they always turned out bad and I became frustrated. Drawing is still a difficult process, but now I have patience! A skill that I feel rules all challenges you may face.

In terms of things to help with becoming a better drawer, I hear “draw” which is true, but not helpful to someone who’s trying to learn and getting nowhere. However, some tips like drawing patterns without the aid of a ruler, which seem more helpful, because being able to control your hand is very important. I do feel there is a sense in which your hand “has a mind of its own” when you learn how to draw better. It comes naturally from being able to control the pencil in the way you intend. A lot of people also struggle with drawing what they picture in their head, and for that, I feel it best to try to draw things that are not in your head, or even better, try to trace out another drawing or photo perfectly. It could be a potential lifesaver for developing good technique.

However, I have a personal solution that I think might help. Personally, when I write on something or with something that doesn’t play nice (such as bad chalk on a blackboard), you have to train extra hard to write better. Giving yourself these difficulties might be the best way to train for a writing utensil that plays much nicer. I want to learn how to write with chalk, but I have really awful chalk, but I am definitely getting better with it. Then look at something like this:

nice math write

It might not be directly related to drawing but it takes penmanship and a careful hand to do that. It’s just gorgeous! So, I guess what I’m trying to say is write with chalk.


Math in Art

Group theory is a field of Mathematics that forms to generalize algebraic structures known as groups. Groups are just a set of objects (abstractions) that is equipped with a binary option—an operation that takes in two inputs and outputs another (i.e. Addition). However, groups don’t have to just describe numbers. They can, in fact, describe anything (so long as it holds the properties of closure, associativity, identity, and invertibility). One of the most common examples can be seen with the symmetry groups. Here’s an example of a symmetry group on a square:


This is important because it generalizes the notion of transformation. Notice how performing r1 (rotate 90°) after r2 (rotate 180°) is the same as performing r3 (rotate 270°). Or how performing r1 (rotate 90°) after fv (vertical reflection) is the same as performing fc (counter-diagonal reflection). Math has generalized every transformation as a composition of another transformation. But how would we visualize this more compactly? Surprisingly, multiplication tables, or more specifically group tables:


This seems daunting, but let’s look at the same examples before. First, let me say that we read the top first then the horizontal. So, if we have r2 (rotate 180°) and “multiply” it by r1 (rotate 90°), we get r3 (rotate 270°)! Now, if we “multiply” fv (vertical reflection) with r1 (rotate 90°) we get fc (counter-diagonal reflection). Notice how fv “times” r1 (fc) is not the same as r1 times fv (fd). This mean our group isn’t commutative. Now, for a nice visual, here’s a clip from a 3blue1brown video:

Rotate 90 counterclockwise (same as r3 because it is the same as rotating 270 clockwise) plus a horizontal flip (fh) is the same as a diagonal reflection (fd).
Rotate 90 counterclockwise (same as r3 because it is the same as rotating 270 clockwise) plus a horizontal flip (fh) is the same as a diagonal reflection (fd).

What does this have to do with art? Well, everything! Being able to generalize notions of symmetry, transformation, etc. into abstractions means we could generalize design itself! We’ve already started to do such a thing with music theory with an abelian group. Design could be no different. Proportion could be measured by different sizes of a group. Emphasis can be described by a group that changes point of view. Harmony can be described by a group of different scaled objects, where acting on them changes how each one moves until balance can be reached. So, all in all, generalizing design would be one of my main points of interest, and a topic I would be glad to explore further.